A new robot from MIT can adapt its capabilities with a simple outfit change. The tiny robot called Primer, developed by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, puts on different exoskeletons allowing it to roll, float, drive and even glide.
Primer starts as a cube, but uses heat to put on the new exoskeleton, which are folded from a rectangular sheet. It can also put on multiple to combine their capabilities. Built-in magnets control the robot’s movement, and to remove its suit, Primer submerges itself in water.
Currently, Primer’s exoskeleton options include the walk-bot for walking, the wheel-bot for quicker movement, the boat-bot for floating and carrying twice its weight and the glider-bot for flying.
“If we want robots to help us do things, it’s not very efficient to have a different one for each task,” CSAIL director Daniela Rus told New Atlas. “With this metamorphosis-inspired approach, we can extend the capabilities of a single robot by giving it different ‘accessories’ to use in different situations.”
Currently, the team is working to expand Primer’s abilities to include camouflage, burrowing in sand and driving through water. While at its current size, Primer may not seem capable of much, when scaled up such a multi-purpose robot could aid in exploring space or remote parts of the earth.
The study was originally published in Science Robotics.